Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Foreign Words

An interesting lesson from Illustrated Lessons in Our Language by G.P Quackenbos, 1882, discusses how to create plurals from foreign words:
Some English words of foreign origin retain their foreign plurals, changing us to i, is to es, and um or on to a: as,
Alumnus, alumni.
Crisis, crises.
Animalculum, animalcula.
Phenomenon, phnomena.
Some words of foreign origin take both the foreign and a regular English plural; as,
Beau, beaux or beaus.
Cherub, cherubim or cherubs.
English is full of foreign words. So many, in fact, that a great deal of them shouldn't really be considered "foreign" any longer. Quackenbos lists many Latin words which may be considered so thoroughly incorporated into the English language as to be English. After all, many English words have Latin or Greek roots. The exercises following the above lesson present several challenges. Decide if the following words are plural or singular, then see if you know what its opposite is:


(Let me know if you want me to post the answers in the comments :)


Anonymous Ray Ward said...

"Parentheses" is plural; the singular is "parenthesis." The other three words are singular. Without looking in the dictionary, my guess would be to form the plurals of "gymnasium" and "aquarium" by adding an "s." "Effluvium" is so Latin-sounding that I'll guess its plural is "effluvia." I'm not sure of any of these (except "parenthesis/es") without looking in the dictionary.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Robert Robus said...

I, Robert Robus, do not wish to argue with the conclusions of Mr. Ward. However, I do wish to posit "aquaria" as a possible alternate plural for "aquarium." As I, Robert Robus, have not yet consulted a dictionary, of course, I am aware that this could be far askew of good usage.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Editoress said...

Hi, love your blog. Tried to find an e-mail link but could not.

On your blogroll, your link works but you've got a typo:
Apsotrophe Catastrophe


9:44 AM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

parentheses(p) - parenthesis (s)
gymnasium (s) - gymnasia (p)
aquarium (s) - aquaria (p)
effluvium (s) - effluvia (p)

However, since "Some words of foreign origin take both the foreign and a regular English plural, I take this to means that "auquariums" may actually be just as correct as "aquaria."

12:48 PM  

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